Washington, DC — West Virginia may be a small state with just three electoral votes but senior U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a Mountain State Democrat is proving very big when it comes to policies of the new Biden administration.
And, in fact, a policy named for long-time West Virginia Senator, the late Robert C. Byrd, is at the middle of complications for Biden.
Manchin has emerged as the most likely Democrat to oppose Biden in the senate. He has announced that he will not be a rubber stamp for Biden on two or more issues. One is raising the minimum wage to $15, which he says is far too much.
Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled on Thursday against including the $15 minimum wage in Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. In doing so, MacDonough made it difficult for progressives to simply pass the policy as part of the bill. The senate is equally divided, 50-50.
Democrats pushed for the minimum wage increase in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, using budget reconciliation, which would allow the bill to pass on a simple majority vote.
But MacDonough ruled that increasing the federal minimum wage as part of that bill violates the Byrd Rule. The Byrd Rule prohibits including “extraneous” measures in the budget being passed through reconciliation.
So Biden and progressives must rely on keeping all Democrats in line if they pass the bill with no GOP support.
That’s where Manchin comes in. He announced he supports the parliamentarian’s ruling. That’s a major problem for progressives demanding the wage increase.
After MacDonough’s ruling, several progressive Democrats asked the White House to overrule the decision and include the minimum wage increase in the bill anyway.
“The Senate parliamentarian issues an advisory opinion. The VP can overrule them—as has been done before,” Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal wrote in a tweet on Thursday. “We should do EVERYTHING we can to keep our promise, deliver a $15 minimum wage, and give 27 million workers a raise.”
The problem with that entire proposal is Manchin. Although he’s been pressured by Democrats to stick with his party, he’s been firm in his pronouncements up to now. A “no” vote from him might sink the entire proposal.
So, Manchin sits in a powerful position. As the most conservative Democrat, he poses tremendous problems.for the president’s party.